My best live shows of 2016

2016 was an incredible year for me as far as all of the live music experiences I got to enjoy. I saw dozens of shows and many bands more than once.I have a hard time sticking to the typical 1-10 format, so I’m going to do what comes most naturally to me and just post my favorites in the way I find most appropriate.They are in no particular order. I guess it’s too late for me to become a rule follower now, anyway.

Jason Isbell, Beacon Theater, NYC, February, 2016.

While I was lucky enough to see Jason play live 3 times this year, this one was the one that stood out the most for me. Jason’s stunning lyrics and incredibly tight band have left me in tears every time I’ve seen them, but this was the only show where he was joined by his amazingly talented wife, Amanda Shires, onstage. There is a beauty that can’t be explained when her haunting fiddle playing is added to this already exceptional music.This show absolutely blew me away.

Dinosaur Jr., College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT  September, 2016

This was my fourth Dinosaur Jr. show in a year. I had a hard time deciding between the College Street show and the very intimate one at Rough Trade Records , but this show won out because of the longer set list and incredible energy. Dinosaur Jr. never fails to put on an amazing show, but when Murph played so hard that his glasses literally flew across the stage not once, but twice, they surpassed all energy levels in which I’d seen them in the past. That, my friends, is really saying something.

Drive-By Truckers, The Filmore, Charlotte, North Carolina, November, 2016

This was the third time I saw DBT this year and by far my favorite show. Not only was I introducing my sister-in-law to the band, but I got to meet and interview many fellow HeAthens (Drive-By Trucker fans). This show was a few days after the presidential election and the songs, especially from their latest release, American Band, hit even harder. After playing for almost 3 hours, we in the audience  left exhausted, exhilarated and breathless. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them put on a better show.

Wilco, College Street Music Hall, January, 2016

I was tempted to leave Wilco off of this list because I’m not a huge fan of a band playing a new release in its entirety at any show. Most fans are there to hear the catalog of music that bands have built up over the years. The band saved the show during the second half, when all of us true Wilco fans got to hear all of our favorites. Wilco reminded me , yet again, why they’ve been a favorite of mine for so many years.

The Proletariat, Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT, October, 2016

The Proletariat are one of my favorites from my punk days. When I found out that they’d be touring for the first time in 30 years, I couldn’t buy my ticket fast enough. This was the bands first stop, but you’d have never known it. Their playing was beyond solid and cohesive. They put on a show like they’d never stopped touring. It was incredibly good and I look forward to all that the future has in store for these guys.

Cheetah Chrome, College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, November 2016

Cheetah Chrome is one of my biggest musical heroes. After getting to do an amazing interview with he and his extremely talented band, I was treated to one hell of a show. The band plays together beautifully and when listening to songs I hadn’t heard played live ever before, I had tears in my eyes at how lucky and blessed I was to get to see this. One of the years highlights for me.

Guided By Voices, College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, July, 2016.

Robert Pollard and Keith Richards should write a self-help book for those of us that want to outlive the rest of the world even though they have no intention at all of living life healthfully. Watching this band is incredibly fun and awe-inspiring, especially when seeing that the band has employed a roadie whose sole purpose seems to be bringing a steady supply of alcohol on stage to the band. No matter how much Pollard drinks, his voice remains steady, his showmanship spot on and his famous leg kicks just as high as ever. This show blew me away.

Violent Femmes, College Street Music Hall, New haven, CT, October, 2016

I knew this show would be good, but I was amazed by just how good. I smiled from ear to ear all the way through this show. From all of the bands classics to songs I’d never really heard before, the music was joyful and infectious and every single person in that room had an amazing night.

Bob Mould, Webster Hall, NYC, April, 2016

I’d waited decades to see Bob Mould play. I’d been lucky enough to see him show up and play at a Dinosaur Jr. show in December, 2015, but before that I hadn’t seen him play since his days with Husker Du. Bob delivered one of the best shows of my life, delving into a catalog of music that included songs from his Husker Du and Sugar days, as well as his extensive solo catalog. Bob and his band are one of the most cohesive units around. Watching them play together is pure joy. And Bob, after all of these years, did not disappoint.

Anders Osborne, Fairfield Theater Company, Fairfield, CT, August, 2016

I’d been a fan of Anders for quite some time, but this was the first time I had gotten to experience him live. I was in for quite a treat. Anders and band put on one of the best live shows around. The audience with jam-packed with die-hard fans that follow them all over the country and now I most certainly understand why. The band is incredibly tight, incredibly talented and incredibly energetic. I am certain I’ll be attending many more shows in the years to come.

Willie Nile, City Winery, April, 2016.

I’ve been a huge fan of Willie for many years, but this show was one of the best I’ve ever seen. At 67, instead of slowing down, Willie and band just continue to play harder and have more fun at every show. I tell everyone I know that is any kind of music fan at all that if they haven’t seen Willie Nile live, they are missing one of the greatest and most fun rock shows out there. One of the most joyful nights I experienced this year!

Big Lazy, New Haven, CT, December, 2016

My friend Alex hooked me up by having me put on the guest list for this show and I can’t thank him enough. The sheer talent of this trio left me floored and in awe. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better group of musicians. That alone speaks volumes. Don’t miss them if you get a chance to see them.

John Doe, Cafe None, New Haven, CT, June, 2016

John Doe has always been one of my very favorite artists, but his solo work has elevated him to an entirely new level. His latest release, The Westerner, is one of the most haunting albums of the year and this show showcased that talent beautifully. In addition to John’s lovely vocals and guitar playing, guitarist Jesse Dayton stole the show on more than one occasion and with John’s X band mate, D.J. Bonebreak on drums, this was one hell of a night for music.

Lucinda Williams, College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, February, 2016

Lucinda, with her gorgeous lyrics and gravelly, soulful voice always captivates me, but this night was even better than her normally stellar performances. Many of my readers have no idea at all who Lucinda is, and to me that’s a travesty. No matter what music genres you appreciate, take a listen. She will will make you a fan.

Kurt Vile, College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, February, 2016

Kurt Vile’s music is quirky, catchy and infectious. This was my first experience seeing him live and I can say honestly that it was one of my favorite shows of the year. He is unusual and different and insanely interesting to listen to and watch. Another incredible College Street show.

The Dickies and Dead City, College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, October, 2016

This lineup was a highlight of the year for me. In addition to seeing one of Connecticut’s top bands, Dead City, I got to see the Dickies, a band that’ I’ve loved for 30 years. Dead City, as usual, captured their audience completely. Even for those in the audience that came only to hear The Dickies, they clearly captivated. I will always say that they are one of the most underappreciated Connecticut bands out there. The Dickies put on a show that was musically wonderfully, colorful and quirky. They left you feeling really happy you were there.

I loved so many shows this year and am lucky and blessed to have so much music in my life. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

 

 

 

Big Lazy, Lyric Hall Theater, New Haven, CT 12/3/16

After seeing Dinosaur Jr. in NYC on Thursday and having a big show coming up on Sunday, I planned on staying in and finishing up an article on Saturday night. My friend, who is a musician himself, insisted that I scrap that idea and go see  a band at Lyric hall, in New Haven. He promised me that I would be blown away. You can imagine that I’ve heard that before. In the short time that I’ve been blogging I get music sent to me on almost a  daily basis. Some of it is really good, some of it is really bad, and most falls somewhere in the middle. I’ve yet to have a band recommended to me that blew my mind. That all changed on Saturday night.

Big lazy are an instrumental trio from Brooklyn , New York. They’ve been together for 20 years and have released 4 albums.
This band includes some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard. Band leader Stephen Ulrich  plays guitar like it’s bleeding directly from his soul while bassist Andrew Hall  adds to this gorgeous sound with some of the most dark and perfect upright bass I’ve ever heard. Drummer Yuval Lion backs this brilliance with a steady and soulful beat.
The bands sound is hard to describe. Both gothic and modern, dark, yet light.It takes you a song or two to actually realize you are listening to something you have never, ever heard before. In a world full of soulless pop and grandiose guitar riffs, they stand apart from the crowd beyond reason. While instrumental music is often overlooked for its beautiful sound but lack of story, Big Lazy proves that words are not necessary to spin beautiful tales of darkness and light, all without uttering a single syllable. The music of Big Lazy evokes a dark, gritty world to which you feel transported almost immediately. This music brings you directly into places you have only seen in the movies or in the darkest recesses of your mind. You can almost feel the night air enveloping you as your footsteps quicken to escape the evil you just know is following behind you in the night. But just when you think this beautiful darkness is all you can expect, they blow you away with everything from bluesy riffs, to riotous rockabilly romps. This band is a true original.
This is not music that is over thought or overdone, yet it paints pictures so vividly with every song they play,  you leave the show feeling as though you’d watched something  just as beautiful, gut wrenching and unforgettable as any play or movie you’ve ever seen. Because without the tiniest voice or softest whisper, you have.

An interview with the one and only Cheetah Chrome. Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT, 11/20/2016

When I was about 13 years old, my life was about as far removed from normal as it could be. I was trained to show the world that it was perfect, that we, as a family, were perfect and by most accounts, to the casual observer, my life did seem pretty idyllic. Sure, there were those that recognized the subtle differences in me. The way I carried myself, always on guard. The fear I had of drawing attention to myself or being different in any way. But my strongest desire, one that trumped every bit of that fear, was to be who I really was. To break free from what I was forced and expected to be and leave all of those fake and phony and ridiculous lies behind. I was so tired of hiding. At only 13, suffice it to say, I had experienced far more darkness than any kid should ever have to. I was looking desperately for a light. Some kind of life-preserver to hold on to. I found it in my friend, Chris.

For whatever reason, he saw the truth in and about me. He became a friend and mentor. He never pried, but he just seemed to know why I never wanted to go home. He was a confidant and a salvation. I’ve often wondered if I’d have made it through those years alive if I had not found him. Chris was also the person that showed me what music meant.He showed me what the punk scene was and how it made a person feel. In every single song he played for me I knew that every word, every note was changing me. I understood beyond doubt it was going to be a large part of what saved me. There is never a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and send him thanks.Chris left this world over a decade ago, but he left me this gift. When I found out I was going to be seeing and interviewing Cheetah Chrome, I thanked him and thought of how he’d have been so fucking thrilled about this. The Dead Boys were one of the first bands he ever played for me. And songs like Sonic Reducer and I Don’t Wanna Be No Catholic Boy ( I changed it to girl. I was forced to go to Catholic school and even sang it to Sister Judith, my Principal once.) were songs we’d scream out the window at the top of our lungs as we drove around town. They were our theme songs.

I’ve been so blessed and lucky with this blog. The people I’ve gotten to interview and see have been people I’ve loved musically for a very long time. I write exclusively about music that means something to me. Despite that, this was different. Maybe it’s because The Dead Boys were my first taste of freedom from a life I’d so hated and feared. Maybe it’s because Cheetah and I have both struggled in this life and come out better for it. And maybe it’s a little reminder of my friend, Chris. Most likely, it’s a combination of all three. But this was the first interview I ever did that I got teary thinking about it.The Dead Boys meant that much to me. And I won’t ever forget how lucky I am to be here today, a person who made it through the worst of the worst and was stronger for it. Just like Cheetah Chrome.

Cheetah grew up Gene O’Connor  in Cleveland Ohio, with very little financial stability, but with a Mother that believed in him. In fact, it was she that worked her ass off so that he could have his first guitar. He began his rise to fame in the proto-punk band Rocket from the Tombswhere he and fellow band mate Johnny Madansky  (a.k.a. Johnny Blitz) eventually left to form the band Frankenstein with singer Stiv Bators. This band eventually became the Dead Boys.

The Dead Boys relocated from the midwest to New York City on the advice of Joey Ramone. The band quickly became famous for not only their sound, but their stage antics, which were loud, and often filled with everything from profanity to Stiv slashing himself bloody with the microphone stand. The Dead Boys became a fixture at CBGB’s and were signed to Sire Records, who encouraged them to change their look and sound and become more mainstream. This was a huge factor in the band’s breakup.

Since the breakup of the Dead BoysCheetah has remained extremely relevant in the world of music. He still tours with Rocket From The Tombs  and is very active with his solo career. In addition, he has played with countless other bands and musicians over the years and remains one of the most important guitarists in music. Cheetah is also an accomplished and critically acclaimed author, after his 2010 memoir ” Cheetah Chrome: A Dead Boys Tale From The Front Lines Of Punk Rock” was released. Cheetah and the Dead Boys were also featured in the 2013 movie titled CBGB , about the influential Bowery club that launched the careers of bands such as Blondie, The Dead Boys and the Ramones. In fact, Hilly Kristal, the club’s owner, managed the band.

Despite his well documented drug addictions and relapses, Cheetah has come out the other side. He is an author, a musician, a mentor and most importantly, a father, which he says is his proudest achievement in his life.

Cheetah is on tour with his incredible band, which include Bass player Enzo Pennizzotto (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts), guitarist Jason Kottwitz (Sylvain Sylvain and the Sylvains) and drummer Chris Alaniz (Sylvain Sylvain and the Sylvains). This is one hell of a talented backing band, and all of these musicians really play hard and play well.

When I sat down with Cheetah at Cafe Nine in New Haven, I was sitting with a man I idolized. However, within seconds of meeting him and being greeted with a warm hug, my nervousness was gone. Cheetah was intelligent, well-spoken and incredibly kind. After our interview I was treated to one of the best live shows I’ve seen in quite some time. And when the band played Sonic Reducer, I shed a little tear and raised my glass to my friend, Chris. I’m sure he was around that night, somehow.

J. The Dead Boys  have meant everything to me as far as music goes. I favored the band over many others in the scene at the time. Did you ever feel there was competition between the bands in the punk scene? I’ve heard that during other interviews on occasion.

CC. The Dead Boys were a very competitive band as far as making music went. I mean, we always wanting to take the fucking house down when we played live, so there was sort of this competition within ourselves to always do that. As far as with other bands? We got along with all of them, The Ramones, The Dictators, Blondie. We liked them all. There was never a competition between us. We wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t about competition with these other bands.

J. Your songs were sort of like my theme songs at age 13-15. As a girl who was forced to go to Catholic school, I don’t wanna be no Catholic boy was something I sang everyday. I even sang it to my Principal once. That didn’t go over so well. Were you raised Catholic, too?

CC: I’m glad you understand that Catholic school shit. You sort of have to live through it to understand it. We were all altar boys if you can believe that. But we were the kind of altar boys that were drinking the wine!

J. The Dead Boys were such a huge influence to other bands and were truly one of the greatest bands in the punk scene, but I feel you don’t often get the credit you deserved. How do you feel about that?

CC: We were definitely overlooked sometimes. When we moved here from Cleveland, people sometimes called us Johnny-Come-Lately, things like that. A lot of times we were overlooked by the New York critics because we weren’t artsy enough for them. The press always took the side of the artsy bands in New York. We were too rock n roll for them I think. Sorry if we were a good band. I mean, we really kicked ass. It’s like the CBGB movie, a lot of bands were pissed off that we were in it more than they were. But Hilly was our manager for God’s sake.The movie was about the club itself. Our lives and Hilly’s were intertwined. I’m sure we may not have always been the best part of Hilly’s life, but we were a part of it. And that’s what that movie was about.

J. Tell me about how the Dead Boys got started.

CC: During the last months of Rocket from the Tombs, I was hanging out with Stiv a lot.He really wanted me to quit Rockets and put a band together. But the band was doing well, getting established. Stiv was taking me from a good band. I wasn’t about to just quit, but I saw that the band was probably nearing the end. Stiv and I were like fucking long-lost brothers right off the bat. I felt more comfortable with the kind of music he wanted to play. Stiv and I sort of saw eye to eye on the kind of band we wanted to be. I grew up in the projects. I didn’t need a fucking safety-pin to be punk. I just was, it was in me, you know?

Peter Laughner was a big part of the art part of Rockets. I was more the Detroit Stooges guy. Peter kind of wanted to be Richard Thompson with a fuzz box.

J. I love Richard Thompson.

CC. I do, too, but I wasn’t about to get up there with an acoustic guitar at that point in my life.Stiv and I just fit, you know?

J. I read that your mother was a hugely supportive of you and your goal of being a musician. What do you think your life would have been like without her support.

CC:It would have been horrible.

J. Do you think you’d have gotten as far as you did without her support?

CC: No. I don’t think I would have. I grew up in the projects she was a bookkeeper in a restaurant and she busted her ass for me. It took me a really long time to realize just how hard she worked for me and how much she did for me. The last ten years or so of her life, I was in a good place, and I’m glad we spent them together and was able to thank her. I made her happy for the last ten years of her life. I gave her a grandson. That made her really happy and when she passed, I can honestly say we were like best friends.

Her support meant everything. I miss her. My son is my only close blood relative. My son is doing very well. He’s on the heads list at school. He plays soccer, ice skates, he’s a handsome little bastard. He’s my hero. Everything I’d want him to be. Everything I wasn’t.

J: Is he musical?

CC: Not so far. I tried , but he’s not ready. I’ve gotten him a guitar. He’s only 11, now. He says it doesn’t feel right to him right now, and that’s ok. I didn’t play until I was 15. But he can do anything he wants. I’d be happy if one day that was something we could share, but I just want him to be happy.Like my Mom did with me. She got me my first guitar and helped me along and as long as I was making progress she was proud of me. One of my favorite things that I remember was the time I got a big stretch limo to take her to come see us at the Agora. The only problem with that was she told me that the only person that saw her get out of the limo was the drunk on the corner! She was proud, though. And I’m proud of my kid.

J. The record executives thought punk was going to just fade away. In fact, the big shots at Sire records wanted you to change the band. What happened with that?

CC: That’s what broke up the Dead Boys in the first place. Seymour Stein told us basically to kick ass out there and do what it was we’d been doing. So we just kept on trashing hotel rooms  and doing what a lot of other bands were doing, but we were doing that shit way better. So Seymour, he called us into his office from the road and me and Jeff got beers on the way. Jeff used to say is this going to be a one beer or two beer meeting? I knew this would be a two. He said “Guys, I bet a lot of money on punk rock, and I was wrong. So, I think if we are going to continue our relationship,  you need to reconsider your music, your image and possibly even the name of the band.” and I just looked at him. One of the other members asked Seymour what he had in mind. And I looked at him and said “You’re fucking even entertaining this shit? Because the first thing you’re going to have to do is to find another guitar player.” and I walked out. I knew at the time the media wasn’t reaching the heartland. It hit Cleveland maybe 3 months after New York and California, Texas in 6 months and it never hit places like Idaho. It was going to take time to get to middle America, we were going to give it time. These guys didn’t understand that. And punk didn’t ever die. They’re still selling fucking converse and skinny jeans in the mall. These bands are still making music. The belief that punk was dead may have cost me a record contract, but punk never did die.

J. Did you ever consider giving up music?

CC:  I knew I would never give it up. I couldn’t. The more I think about it, the more I realize that playing music defines me as a person. It’s who I am.

J. When Stiv passed, it must have been extremely difficult for you. How did you handle that?

CC: When I realized what happened, it felt like ice was in my blood. I just felt numb. He was supposed to be in New York in a week. We were going to do a new project together. I was all sober and proud of myself and ready to go. But I dove into the deep end of the pool after that and I didn’t recover for 5 years. I’m just glad I recovered at all. He was my brother. Closest person ever to me. The initial shock of it was fucking bad. Besides my Mother, it was the hardest death for me to face. It’s funny, because Stiv and I had this dynamic. And I kind of have some of that with Jason (Kottwitz, guitarist). Stiv was born on October 22, and Jason’s birthday is October 21. Kind of strange. But, yeah, losing Stiv was really bad.

J. Who have your musical influences been?

CC: You, know, I guess I grew up on The Beatles and The Stones in the 60’s. And I dove right into the punk thing. But since then, nothing really. I mean, the 80’s kind of sucked. The 90’s kind of sucked. I guess I don’t really follow music. These guys in the band have to tell me who it is they’re listening to. I guess making music is enough for me.

J. Do you guys plan on putting out any new music?

CC: Yeah. We’ve got two songs just about ready to go.

J. I know some of the guys from the band Dead City. I loved the album that you did with them. The Dead Sessions. How did that come to be?

CC: I knew Joe Dias from Lost Generation. We played a lot together over the years and we just worked well together. That album came out really well. It’s a really good album. We were supposed to tour and I relapsed. I feel really bad about it. They were good guys and I wish them nothing but the best. I hope I get to see them again. But yeah, I Walked With A Zombie, all of it. It’s just a really good album.

J. I know how you feel about Trump. Did you ever imagine that he would actually win?

CC: I had to imagine him winning.But I tried really hard not to. Because it’s so horrifying. I certainly thought, Holy Shit , there’s a lot more stupid people than I thought there were. But the truth is, he’s going to hang himself. He’s going to trip over his dick. He’s going to. He just can’t keep his mouth shut or his ego checked long enough not to.

J. What do you think of the people he’s appointed so far?

CC: It’s like having the Joker get elected to office and picking his sidekicks. It’s like a fucking cartoon. He can’t talk to anybody without pissing them off. He’s a media whore. War with him is almost inevitable.

J. I’m sure you’ve read about the increase in hate crimes in this country. Many of them have aligned themselves with Trump. What do you think? It’s getting worse?

CC: The thing is that everybody thought race relations had improved., but I saw some guy on television saying that it’s always been there, but the good thing is now they are all wearing these stupid Trump hats and it’s really easy for us to recognize them and walk away. He’s right.We know who the fuck they are now and we can just stay the fuck away from them.

J. Do you think we, as citizens are going to be able to stop him?

CC: People are going to stop him, but I don’t think its going to be without blood shed. I’ve never seen it this bad in my life time. I still can’t really even digest it. And Giuliani, that fucking little freak. These people are even worse! They all want to take away social security, ruin the working class. It’s just really bad. But I don’t think we can or will let him get away with the worst of it. We can’t.

 

J. How about the tour? Where are you heading next?

CC:We’re doing a Japanese tour and a West Coast tour in February. We’ve spent a lot of time in Europe this year.We may go back. A lot of good things coming.

J. How did you get together with your current band?

CC: Enzo (Pennizzotto)  and I knew each other, I ran into the Joan Jett roadies at the airport and the rest is history.I waited around for Enzo, we hung out and talked about playing together and it just fell into place. He was in Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. We’ve been playing together since 2006.  We had a good reunion and the rest is history. Jason (Kottwitz), I met him when he had a band called  Flamethrower. Chris (Alaniz)  was around the music scene. He was just really good, too.

Jason: I was in a band called Flamethrower we did a Dead Boys tribute for Halloween. And  a bunch of promoters wanted us to do it again, and somehow we got Cheetah to come.It all came together from there.

CC: The cool thing was whenever I stopped playing my guitar and Jason was still playing it sounded just like me.It was like I was still playing!  I’m really glad I ended up with these  guys. These are really some of the best guys I’ve ever played with.

Cheetah Chrome is a living legend. More importantly,  he is a kind and thoughtful man, bandmate, musician, father and really decent human being. And just like Chris is looking down and enjoying watching me do what I love, I can guarantte that Cheetah’s Mom and Stiv are watching Cheetah and smiling. With a hell of a lot of pride about what he’s battled and overcome.

The Proletariat interview, Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT , 10/29/16

The Proletariat were a Boston-based band who, because of circumstance and situation, got lumped into the hardcore genre when they really never fit that mold. Their lyrics are literary and political and smart and their music, while hard and fast and punk, still has an almost danceable (well, slam- danceable at least!) groove that makes them much more layered and complicated than a lot of what was going in the hardcore scene at the time. Influenced by bands such as Gang of Four and PIL, The band had a decidedly non-hardcore sound, but never quite escaped the label. These were a group of guys that made you take notice. Quirky, brilliant and socially relevant, their music stood for something. And even at 13 years old I recognized the fact that they were special. My first taste of the band came when a friend gave me a copy of the punk compilation album, This is Boston, Not L.A.. The entire album was good, but I played the Proletariat songs so much that I wore the grooves down in the record in no time.I listened so often that I once even caught my Irish and very Catholic Grandmother humming Religion is the Opium of the Masses. I’m sure she was at confession first thing the next day!

When I first listened to the critically acclaimed  Soma Holiday, my mind was made up. This  punk quartet from the middle class town of Fall River, MA, were politically astute beyond their years. They played with a growling intensity layered with political angst and a refusal to accept a flawed and rigged system. But the music, like the lyrics, were not one-dimensional. There was a multi layered and sophisticated quality to the bands sound, even when it was apparent that they were not trained classically. In music, you either have it, or you don’t and this band understood how to make music together.

A socially and politically aware kid from basically birth, lyrics have always meant something to me. The Proletariat spoke to what was happening in the world. They saw things the way I saw them. And because of that, they were hugely important in my life. Songs were peppered with themes of social justice and class warfare, speaking out against Reaganomics and trickle down bullshit.They just got it.

I’ve listened to The Proletariat for over 30 years. When I found out that they were going out on the road to do a handful of shows, I was elated. When I realized that their first stop was right down the road from me in New Haven, CT, I was floored. There was no way I was going to miss this!

I was lucky enough to be able to interview the band and watch them play live for the first time in over 3 decades. Knowing that they were not used to playing in front of a live audience, I expected good, but not great. But the band surpassed any expectations I could have had. They played a phenomenally tight and solid set that sounded like they’d been out on the road together forever, with no time off in between.The setlist included all the favorites and even an excellent rendition of Janie Jones by The Clash. It was so good there was just no way to sit still through it.If you have the chance, go see them. You will not be sorry, I promise. Punk at its finest.

J. After 30 years, what was it that got you back out on the road again?

Rick : Probably the reissue of the album  Soma Holiday. Peter has been trying to get us to reunite for close to a decade now. I was finally willing, but Frank (guitarist Frank Michaels) wasn’t. That’s when we recruited Don. (Don Sanders).

J. How do you feel about the re-release? Was it unexpected?

Rick:  I was surprised that people wanted Soma re-released. But people really did.It’s going pretty well, I’d say.It’s humbling. It really is.

J. The reception to the re-release of Soma Holiday has been so positive. Were you expecting it to be such a big deal to so many of us?

Rick: It’s been ridiculous! People are so excited about it. It’s so cool! I think more people know us now than 30 years ago. It’s unreal.

Don: I don’t think these guys realized how influential they were. I was a fan from the beginning. I saw them in their earliest days at 13 and 14 years old.I don’t think they fully realize the impact they’ve had on the music industry and their fans.

J. Have you written anything lately? Are you in the process?

Rick: Yes! We have written one song and we will be playing it mid set tonight! It’s called “Scab”. We like it. It’s pretty good.

J. Are you planning on doing any recording? Writing more new music?

Rick :I hope we can. It’s been the goal. 

J. Who have your biggest influences been. You often speak about Gang of Four. Are there others?

Peter: Killing Joke, PIL.

Rick: Mission of Burma, we idolized those guys. Our goal was to play with them and we got to do it a handful of times. This summer when Tommy couldn’t play, Peter Prescott played with us. It was awesome.

Don: And I idolized these guys. It all comes full circle.

Rick: Don tries to bring in a King Crimson influence (laughing)

Pete: And he likes Britney Spears!!

Don. I’m trying to bring the metal into the band.(laughing). But I like Britney. I listen to everything.

J. How does it feel to be back on the road? Nerve-racking? Exciting? Both?

Rick: Definitely both. We’ve been rehearsing since April or May. These are our songs, but not songs we’ve played in quite some time.

J. You’ve always been a political band. What do you think of the current political climate ?

Rick: It’s like a perfect storm out there. Madness everywhere. There are many things factoring in to how we got here.How we can possibly have someone like Trump running for President of this country. You know, someone said to me recently, “I know you’re voting for Hillary, but Trump winning would be really good for your band.” I could get a lot of good lyrics out of it, but it’s really not funny.

J. Where do you see our country going and can you fathom a Trump Presidency?

Rick: It’s hard to imagine the chaos that would come. His followers are deranged. He says he won’t even concede if he loses. It’s difficult to imagine the craziness to come.He’s made it cool and acceptable to hate again.There has always been safety in numbers.These people were having these thoughts and  were afraid to say them, but now that a man like this is running for President they feel they can say it.  The wealthy have done a good job at convincing the middle class in this country that the poor are the problem. They’ve set it up nicely for themselves. Black against white, straight against gay, Christian against Muslim.They are distracting us from the fact that it’s always been the rich against the rest of us.

J. Do you feel that politically, a lot of what you wrote about in the 80’s is still relevant today?

Rick: Unfortunately, yes. We seem to be going backwards at light speed. It’s almost worse than the 80’s. We ragged on Reagan. It was bad, trickle down, rich against poor. That’s when this  all started. But its gotten so far beyond that. We have gotten almost to the point of no return.It’s toxic to all of us, this hate.

J. How did you wind up on  This is Boston, Not L.A. compilation. It was truly one of my favorites.

Rick: When SSD decided not to do it, we were asked. We may have been asked anyway, but that solidified it. We played with a lot of the bands on the album, but other than The Freeze, we didn’t sound like anyone else on the album.They were a punk band that played fast. Like us. I think it was beneficial to us, being able to stand out on that album. It brought us a lot of attention.

J. How do you define yourselves as a band? What genre do you consider yourselves to be?

Rick: We are a punk band. 

J. What is the goal with this tour? Are you hoping to play more? Make some new records?

Rick: Yes, we are hoping to get back on the road after these dates. There has been some interest in us going to Philly, DC, maybe out to Portland and Tacoma. We’ve been getting some interest and that’s something we’d love to do. 

Tommy: We want to keep playing and keep recording. I think we have a lot left in us.

If you haven’t seen or listened to the Proletariat, do yourselves a favor and listen. The band still sounds fresh, even though the songs are decades old. And the topics they write and sing about are just as relevant today. I will always continue to count them among my favorites.

The Proletariat will be playing on Saturday, November 5, 2016 at St.Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY

Tickets are available on Ticketfly.

 

 

Dead City interview, Cafe nine, New Haven, CT, 10/26/16

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Dead City opened for punk legends The Dickies at Cafe Nine in New Haven this past Wednesday night and it was a stellar show. Singer Joe Dias is about as energetic and colorful as a lead vocalist can be. He is a mesmerizing figure up on that stage and makes certain that his audience has a great time. Bassist Sean Sheridan and drummer Dave Russo provide a background groove as solid as they come and guitarist Pugs is a force to be reckoned with.The current lineup of this band is certainly not lacking in talent. In fact, they may be one of the tightest bands out there in the Connecticut scene right now.

Dias, who is very well-known in the Connecticut hardcore seen as the singer of Lost Generation, has been in the industry for close to 40 years. He’s opened for and played along side of some of the best this genre has ever had to offer.Lost Generation was one of the most in demand and well known hardcore bands on the East Coast in the 80’s. During that decade they released some incredible music and embarked on U.S. Tours opening for bands such as The Ramones , X and The Dead Kennedy’s. As a fan of Lost Generation for decades, it’s always been a  bit of an enigma to me that this band never got the national recognition they so well deserved.

Dias began to collaborate  with guitarist John “Pugs” Licitra to get back to a sound more reminiscent of early punk bands such as The Dead Boys and The Stooges. The Dead City recordings are, to me, the best that Dias has ever made. When the band secured Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome to record with them, it seemed that fate might finally be on their side. But circumstance and fate had something a little different in mind. The band disbanded for over a decade and guitarist Pugs went on to do multiple tours across the U.S and Europe with several other bands (the Suspects from D.C.,Forced Reality,Iron Cross to name just a few).

When the Dead City recordings were packaged and released years later, including the contributions by Chrome, Dias contacted Licitra about touring. Chrome was to join the band at a handful of shows. The music was getting great reviews and tickets to the shows were selling quickly. After a lot of time and concentrated effort in getting the tour off the ground, Chrome who is quite open about his past history of substance abuse, relapsed and was unable to tour. After these well laid plans were scrapped, the band laid low for a while.

A few years later, Lost Generation was in demand again. This time, Dias and Pugs were joined by bassist Sean Sheridan and current drummer Dave Russo was soon to follow. This band worked so well together that they continue to play as both Lost Generation and Dead City, with both incarnations having a loyal and well deserved following.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the interest of classic punk rock bands.. Just take a look at the bands that have played to sold out crowds in the New York and Connecticut scenes in the last week alone. The Dickies, The Damned, The Proletariat…. punk is back in a big way. Whether is nostalgia driven or the need for really amazing and genuine music that takes us where we need to go, Dead City is at the right place and  in the right time to become what they always deserved to be.This band needs to be heard. I have no doubt in my mind that the time is now.

 

J. Tell me how Dead City came to be.

Joey D: Cheetah Chrome played with my band Lost Generation at a couple of reunion shows . We played really well together and we wound up recording some of the Dead Sessions album together. It was something I really felt strongly about doing. That style of music is what I really wanted to play.

J. Lost Generation is a favorite in the CT hardcore scene. Dead City has a different sound. Much more inline with the classic punk of the late 70’s.  What bands most influenced that sound?

Joey D:  I love the New York Dolls, Iggy and The Stooges, The Damned and The Dead Boys. That’s what it punk all comes down to for me. It’s punk at its core.

J. You normally throw a few Lost Generation songs into the set list, like you did tonight. Do you prefer one bands music to the other?

Joey D: I love Lost Generation. I love the fans. I love that people want to hear these songs. They expect them. So I give them what they want. But if I had it my way I’d just play this Dead City stuff. It’s what I feel the strongest about. This is the music that means the most to me. That late 70’s punk sound is what I love. What I feel.I’d been wanting to play this music for a really long time. That’s not taking anything away from Lost Generation. I like everybody I’ve played with and all the fans that come to see us. But I just really like this music more right now. 

J:Cheetah Chrome played with you on the Dead Sessions. Are you still in contact? Do you plan on ever doing anything together again?

Joey D. I’d love to . Cheetah is a great guy.A really talented guy.

J. Pugs, while you and Cheetah don’t play on any of the same tracks on The Dead Sessions, what does it feel like to play guitar on the same album as such a punk icon?

Pugs: I find that having one of my heroes totally killing it in between tracks of me is very humbling to say the least. I look forward to seeing him at Cafe Nine at the end of November.

J. Do you guys plan on doing any more recording?

Pugs:  Dead City (sans Cheetah) definitely talk about recording some new music.

J. Joe, you’ve been around this scene for most of your life and you’ve played alongside some of the best in the genre. In the song “Nothing” you talk about having no real regrets, except not being able to do it all over again. Do you have any regrets? Do you think you’ll always play?

Joey D: I have no regrets. I love playing. I love the people I got to meet and the bands I got to play with. I don’t have to do this. I’m successful in business, this isn’t about that.It’s all about the music. Not money. Not fame. I love it and I love playing. I think I’ll always do it. I can’t even imagine a time when I won’t.

 

Take a listen and I’m sure you’ll agree that this music is worth hearing.

You can download Dead City on both Spotify and I-tunes.

Jason Isbell, College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, 10/8/16

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Jason Isbell at Mountain Jam 6/16.

What can I possibly say about Jason Isbell that will accurately express what his music means to me? Since his days with Drive-By Truckers, his songs have consistently had the ability to dissolve me into a puddle of tears. Beginning at the tender age of 21, his songwriting abilities were beyond reproach. Jason has been quite open about his alcoholism and struggles with sobriety.While many artists lose the creative edge they once had while  they were on the bottle, Isbell’s lyrics have only grown more gorgeous, inspired and true even as he remains clean and sober.

This show was the third in which I’ve seen Isbell and his incredible band this year. But quite a few things made it different for me. First, this blog is in full swing. Secondly, my son has fallen in love with Jason’s music and was coming along with me to the show, and thirdly, I have experienced some life changing stuff as of late. Things that made me wonder if I could even tolerate listening to some of the songs that have meant so much to me.

Some interesting things happened before the show even started. My son and I were befriended by a homeless woman while we waited in line. She sang to us in a voice that was awe-inspiring, recited some of her hand-written poetry and made us laugh until our sides ached. We gave her money for a nice hot supper (maybe, but no matter where the money went, I don’t regret the human connection we made) and remembered  what it was like to be human beings, all in this world together. This feels so rare these days with so much hate going on in the world.

When we got up to my usual spot right in front of the stage, we began talking to two very nice gentlemen. After about an hour of chit-chat, it was discovered that one of these men had lost a teenaged son to cancer. It made my heart ache to hear him tell his story. But it soon began to dawn on me that his son sounded familiar to me. And when he showed me a picture, I realized that he had been a massage therapy patient of mine at the local children’s hospital. What an incredibly small and connected world we all live in.

After our encounter with the beautiful woman who hadn’t lost the song in her heart, despite wondering where she would sleep or her next meal would come from, or the man who got through the loss of his son by writing and listening to gorgeous music, I sucked it up and decided that tears or no tears, none of my tiny little problems meant anything when compared to those of some. And I resolved that songs I wondered if I could make it through were going to be the songs that made me realize that life and loss are always beautiful if you allow them to be. I was ready for this show.

Josh Ritter was an incredibly good opening act. There is no doubt that his star is rapidly on the rise and that he won’t be opening shows much longer. And when Jason came on, I realized that it wouldn’t be long before venues the size of this one were soon going to be in the past for Isbell and his band. His star is rising so quickly it’s unstoppable at this point. As the first chords of Flying Over Water played I held onto my heart and hitched myself along for the ride.

Jason Isbell is known for his lyrics. At least, he should be. It seems as if every song he writes is more beautifully crafted than the last. The set list included 24 Frames “This is how you talk to her when no-one else is listening and this is how you help her when the muse goes missing you vanish so she can go drowning on her dream again. You thought God was an architect, now you know, he’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow and everything you built that’s all for show goes up in flames, in 24 frames.” , the epically beautiful Elephant, which is about a man who loses his friend to cancer  and Cover Me Up,  which I consider to be the most beautiful love song of all time. It always gets the loudest cheers of any of the songs in the setlist when Isbell sings the line “I sobered up, and swore off that stuff, forever this time”. (Isbell attributes his sobriety to wife, Amanda Shires, whom this song was written for). I can honestly say that there wasn’t a song in the entire setlist that didn’t make my heart swoon in one way or another. This man reads souls. He can delve that deeply into what we feel as human beings.

In addition to the gorgeous lyrics, Jason is a true performer, and his band stands right up behind him with the same star quality.The audience was as enthralled as I was and you could hear a pin drop during the most lovely and reflective of the songs played that night.  It’s not often a musician takes the scenic route in his quest for stardom. Jason has had his ups and his downs and taken his sweet time getting here. But there is absolutely no question in my mind that the next time I see him, it will not be in a cozy little venue, but in a stadium, where thousands of people stand with me to appreciate his genius. And it makes me a little bit sad, but so proud of someone so deserving of the title of star.

Setlist:

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Dawes, The Egg, Albany, NY 8/19/16

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     For those of you that have not listened to the band Dawes, you don’t know what you are missing. This California Indie Folk band has a sound often compared to Neil Young and Jackson Brown, but to my ears, it’s a sound completely their own.

     The band, which began in its earliest form as the post-punk band Simon Dawes, reformulated their sound after the departure of guitarist an co-songwriter Blake Mills . The band changed their name to Dawes (The middle name of singer, song-writer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith) and the sound they began to produce was less loud and more lovely. A true maturation that happened extraordinarily fast, considering the age and experience of the members of the band at the time.

     Fueled by the stunning, insightful and heartfelt lyrics of Taylor Goldsmith, one could easily attribute the success of the band to the songwriting alone. When Esquire magazine dubbed Goldsmith “The best young songwriter in America”, it would have been easy to dismiss the band as a backup to the lyrics. The reality is that this band is successful as a true sum of its parts, rather than one shining star, lyrically  or otherwise. The maturity and insight in Goldsmith’s lyrics are an enormous factor in this bands success, but gorgeous story-telling alone does not make a band. Goldsmith, along with brother Griffin Goldsmith on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass and Duane Betts on guitar, meld together to make a sound that matches its lyrics in beauty, grace and passion.

The band, who captured the attention of mega-stars such as Bob Dylan and Jackson Brown very early on in their career, is about to release their fifth studio album, “We’re All Gonna Die” on September 16. This highly anticipated album, a follow-up to last year’s widely praised release, “All Your Favorite Bands”, is chock full of guest appearances including Brittany Howard from the band Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.

I was able to obtain a press pass to see the band for the first time at The Egg in Albany, NY. The venue was not quite sold out, but the fans that were present made up for that.This band quite obviously draws a devoted crowd, and there wasn’t a fan anywhere around me that didn’t seem to know the lyrics to just about all of  the songs being played. It was a joy to watch the pleasure in which so many of these fans took listening to the songs they loved.

The set list included When The Tequila Runs Out, from their upcoming release, but also included gems from each one of their studio albums and also stripped down and beautiful acoustic versions of How Far We’ve Come and Hey Lover, a Blake Mills cover. The band was engaging and interactive with the audience and had its  fans enjoying every second of the spirited and energetic show. They certainly lived up to their reputation as one of the best live bands on tour this summer.

Setlist:

  1. I Can Think About It Now
  2. Things Happen
  3. If I Wanted Someone
  4. Somewhere Along The Way
  5. That Western Skyline
  6. From A Window Seat
  7. Bear Witness
  8. Fire Away
  9. When The Tequila Runs Out
  10. Now That It’s Too Late, Maria
  11. How Far We’ve Come
  12. Hey Lover (Blake Mills Cover)
  13. Take Me Out Of The City
  14. From The Right Angle
  15. A Little Bit Of Everything
  16. When My Time Comes
  17. Most People
  18. All Your Favorite Bands

 

Anders Osborne at the Warehouse @FTC 8/18/16

Anders Osborne is a musician that spends extraordinary amounts of time on the road. One of the hardest working men in the industry, Osborne never seems to slow down. And for someone who is on tour so often, he never seems to tire or fail to give each performance his all.

I saw Anders and his band at the Warehouse at the Fairfield Theater Company on 8/18, which is a frequent stop for Osborne with and without his full band. This gem of a local venue attracts some of the best live music in the industry . It’s a must for anyone living in Fairfield County. Currently on the road to support his beautiful new release, “Flower Box”, this soulful singer, guitarist and songwriter from New Orleans did not disappoint.

Most of the bands I cover have very loyal followings. Anders Osborne fans are beyond loyal. I can only compare them to fans of Phish and The Dead (Osborne does play with Phil Lesh quite often). These people know their stuff. I spoke with dozens of fans that follow Anders all over the East coast. They know each other and even the band members. Osborne himself welcomes them with real affection and kindness. This is a man who really likes his fans and is not above hanging out with them. There is no sense of superiority with anyone in the band. It’s really refreshing to see.

I had never seen Osborne or his band live before. And while I enjoy listening to his large and varied repertoire quite often, this man has to be seen live to fully understand his talent. He simply glows in front of a live audience. Bassist Carl Dufrene and guitarist Eric McFadden are equally comfortable with the crowd. They are engaging with each other and the audience and they play their asses off. Dufrene, a longtime band member, and Osborne have an undeniable chemistry. What I found more interesting was the amazing dynamic between McFadden , an incredibly good lead guitarist in his own right, and Osborne. Take note, some of the territorial and competitive press members I had to come across at the show. If these guys can check their egos at the door and respect each other enough to let all of the music shine equally, we should all be able to. There was no such thing as hogging the spotlight, no matter whose name was on the bill as a headliner.

Osborne’s songs are dripping with southern blues, distortion pedals and fuzz boxes. His gritty voice is filled with a passion that you believe in. This man feels his beautifully crafted lyrics. And because of this, he pulls in the crowd in a way that is real and true. We know he means what he’s singing about. That lends itself to a concert experience far removed from the norm. The audience feels like they are part of the entire experience, not just passive spectators. The band played gorgeous tracks from his new album, but also delved into decades old beauties that his fans were hoping to hear. From bluesy and guitar riff laden classics  like On The Road To Charlie Parker, new beauties like Flower Box , to reggae inspired dance the night away kinds of jams such as Wind, it was a night of music and magic. Every time I looked around at the faces in the crowd I witnessed joy. And people dancing. And happiness that was real and true. Isn’t that what music is all about?

Anders will be playing the Blues, Views and BBQ Festival In Westport, CT on September 3. Tickets are available.

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur Jr., Rough Trade, Brooklyn, NY 8/5/16 (With Those Pretty Wrongs)

When I heard that Dinosaur Jr. would be playing at Rough Trade, NYC,  the independent record store and live music venue, I couldn’t really believe it. The last time I had seen the band it was in December during their sold out 7 night stint at the Bowery Ballroom. I’d been to Rough Trade before, and knew that the music venue portion of the store had a capacity of only 250. 250 people?  For a Dinosaur Jr. show?  That’s all I needed to hear. I knew I had to be there. When would I get another chance to see this band in such an intimate setting?

Adding to the excitement was the fact that Those Pretty Wrongs would be opening.  Jody Stephens, drummer for the seminal power pop legends, Big Star, and Luther Russell of The Freewheelers, have joined forces to make up this exceptionally talented duo.

We arrived pretty early for the show, but entertaining yourself at Rough Trade is a pretty easy task. The two-story record store is chock full of every kind of music you can dream of, and browsing the massive inventory is something that could quite easily keep any music lover entertained for hours. After purchasing Dinosaur Jr.’s just released album Give a Glimpse Of What Yer Not on vinyl, I witnessed  J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph walk by the register and sit down at a table near-by. I had been unaware of the fact that the band would be doing a signing, but that’s the beauty of seeing a show at Rough Trade. It’s always an interactive experience and a chance to meet some of your favorite bands.

We got right up against the stage, with some very enthusiastic fans about 20 years younger than we were, but just as excited to see Dinosaur Jr. live . To me, it speaks volumes about a band when you can look around the audience and see it span generations.  Dinosaur Jr., with their unique and timeless sound, is a band that does this effortlessly. Because the venue is so small, I could have literally extended my arm all the way out and just about touched the drum kit. That should give readers an idea of just how tiny this venue is. I’d wondered if the size of the venue would mean fewer amps and less volume, but glancing up at what I saw up on stage, I knew the volume would be just as outrageously and wonderfully loud as ever. Anyone who has seen the band live understands that unless you want your ears ringing for a week or more after, earplugs are a must. I felt like the Mama Bear of the fans around me when I passed out extra ear plugs like they were candy.

The evening opened with Those Pretty Wrongs. Stephens and Russell played a gorgeous acoustic set, which spanned the entirety of their new release. It was quite a different experience watching Stephens take over the job of lead vocals for the first time in his career, backed by only Russell on acoustic guitar. While there were traces of Big Star in the sound, this duo has managed to come up with a sound that is both unique and familiar at the same time. A lovely soft place in a world full of noise.

We thoroughly enjoyed the set, Stephens vocals in particular, but it was time for peace to segue into the excruciatingly loud, joyful and invigorating volume of a Dinosaur Jr. show. The sound is part of the experience. And although volume levels are notorioulsy some of the loudest in the industry, the melody, energy, and uniquely personal sound blend together to make magic.

The band began the set with The Lung,  from their 1987 album “You’re Living All Over Me” and was followed with  Goin’ Down from the just released “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”.  The band ripped through their setlist with  J.’s notorious drawl and blazing guitar riffs and Murph and Barlow’s earth shaking rhythm section. I rank Barlow up there with the best alternative bass players around, for sheer force, aggression and play-your-heart-out attitude alone. While all Dinosaur Jr. fans love watching  J. shred his guitar, watching Barlow play bass is something everyone should see at least once.

With the volume so loud that fans were literally shaking, the greatness of the songs and the guys up there playing them, as well as the crowd knowing, as we always do at a Dinosaur Jr. show, that we were witnessing something special, the joy in the room was a palpable thing. Dinosaur Jr. fans know that we are on to something special and many of us have been for 30 years.To be at a Dinosaur Jr. show is akin to being part of a secret group of music fans that just get it. And while the rest of mainstream America is paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars to  see Beyonce, Adele or  Coldplay  in  arenas where they’re lucky to catch a glipse of the performer on the megascreen, we are a group of music lovers, standing together at a venue that holds only 250 people, happily and joyfully watching what real music is supposed to be. It doesn’t get any better than that

  • SETLIST:
  • The Lung
  • Goin’ Down
  • Love is…
  • Pieces
  • Tiny
  • Feel The Pain
  • In A Jar
  • I Walk For Miles
  • Start Choppin’
  • Freak Scene
  • Gargoyle

Encores:

  • The Wagon
  • Out There

 

 

Lowdown Hudson Music Fest, Day 2 7/13/16. Brookfield Place, NYC. Rayland Baxter, Valerie June and Drive-By Truckers.

Arts Brookfield held its annual Lowdown Hudson Music Fest on July 12 and 13 this year. The event, which began in 2011 as the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival, is a free to the public event that draws crowds upwards of 15,000 people annually and showcases some of the best musical talent out there.

The event is held on the lovely Brookfield Place waterfront, which only adds to the charm and atmosphere of the evening. I was able to secure a press pass for day 2, and get right up front for one of my very favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers.

The evening began with overcast skies and threats of thunder and lightning. The crowds started off pretty lightly, no doubt due to the threat of bad weather, but it did not stop the nights opening artist Rayland Baxter and his band from giving the crowd it’s all. Rayland is the son of musician Bucky Baxter, a multi-instrumentalist who has played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, R.E.M and Steve Earle. Despite being the son of such a well-respected musician, Rayland’s music does not set out to emulate his famous Father, but to sound uniquely his own. Rayland’s sound can be described as soulful country mixed with a modern twist. His great melodies, beautifully crafted lyrics and soulful voice really showcased a talent that is uniquely his own.

The next act was the talented and very charming Valerie June. June, a native of Tennessee and a more recent transplant to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, calls her style of music “Organic Moonshine Roots Music”. To my ear, it was a perfect mixture of blues, gospel, soul, folk and even bluegrass. During June’s set, the weather began to get a little bit better and the crowd began to grow. Her vocals and musical talent really began to get stronger with every passing song. June, who attributes her soulful lyrics and sound to her upbringing in the deep south, particularly her church, where she got to listen to hundreds of different voices singing regularly, has a sound that draws you in and comforts you. She had the amazing ability to make even this Northern girl feel like I was sitting out in the country on the back porch listening to something deep and soulful and true.

The headliners of the night were the Drive-By Truckers. Anyone who reads my blog understands how much this band means to me. And from the large crowd that trickled its way in to see them, it was evident that even up in NYC,  DBT has garnered themselves quite a loyal following. Easily mistaken at first listen as a typical southern  rock band, DBT crowds are almost always heavy on the testosterone. Women don’t flock to them as readily as men do, for whatever reason, dismissing them as more of a “man’s band”. This could not be further from the truth.

Drive-By Truckers are a band that’s lyrics are beautiful, political,  and socially conscious. They sing about  the duality of the south. The beauty, the shame and the history. They write about what matters to them and when you really listen, you begin to understand the magic in that.

Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley share singing and songwriting duties. Their sounds and tone and content are very different from one another. Hood’s songs seem more reflective upon first listen. He sucks you in melodically and lyically pretty quickly. As a female, it took me longer to understand Mike Cooley. With lyrics filled with references to women and whiskey, I initially dismissed Cooley as less of a lyricist. I could not have been more wrong. The beauty of his lyrics are not lost on me after many a listen. And they are just as deep and socially aware as any Hood has written. The duality of the Southern man, I suppose.

The band had a “Black Lives Matter” poster pinned up by the drum kit and they made certain to include very socially and politically charged tracks from their new album American Band, which will be coming out on September 30 of this year. In this time of such political strife and discord, the songs the band played from this upcoming album showed that they will not be shying away from singing about what they believe in. In fact, it appears they will addressing these issues even more strongly this time around.

The setlist was shorter than I have come to expect at a DBT show and there was no encore, but what they played packed one hell of a punch. They included 6 songs from their upcoming album, (with only the song “Surrender Under Protest” having already been released),  of a 16 song set.There were probably fans that were wondering where a lot of their favorite songs were, but  anyone that understands  the band knows that at a  Drive-By Truckers show, you’re never going to get the same thing twice. You will also never walk away disappointed.

All in all the festival seemed to me to be an enormous success. Fans were happy, new sounds were discovered and we all got to walk away with money in our pockets. It truly is one of the best free events that the city has to offer. I know I’ll be attending again next year.